Which lane?

April 18, 2014

Slow lane or fast lane.

Backwards or forwards.

Left or right.

Wrong or right.

Labour or National.

The difference is stark, the choice is clear.

Photo


Andrew Bayly Nat candidate for Hunua

April 18, 2014

Andrew Bayly has won the National Party selection for Hunua.

Andrew and his wife have raised three sons in Franklin.

Andrew co-founded a strategic advisory firm that lists governments, local authorities, NGOs and Australasian corporates among its clients. He has led multi-disciplinary teams to deliver projects across the health, infrastructure, property, food and agriculture, economic development and tertiary sectors.

Formerly an Officer in the New Zealand Territorial Army and British Parachute Regiment, Andrew is comfortable in the outdoors and the boardroom. He dragged a sled 112 km to the South Pole in the summer of 2012/13 and is a keen mountaineer, having conquered many mountain peaks including Mt Cook.

Andrew was born into a farming family and his father, Phil, is a respected racehorse owner/breeder. With his twin brother Paul, he has owned a 4,500 acre hill country farm and a range of other businesses, including an award-winning composting and recycling environmental business that services horticulturalists and orchardists.

As a trustee of Enterprise Franklin Development Trust, he led the initiative to further develop a motorsport hub in the Franklin area, assisting the Manukau Institute of Technology to establish a satellite campus in Pukekohe.

During his corporate career he has been the chair and a director of several companies, including independent chair of the board of New Zealand Financial Planning. Andrew is a Fellow of the NZ Institute of Management, the NZ Chartered Institute of Corporate Management, and the UK Chartered Association of Certified Accountants.

National has selected another candidate who provides a stark contrast with the stale Labour caucus, many of whom have spent years in parliament and who had achieved little if anything before they got there.

 


Tau to retire

April 8, 2014

National list MP Tau Henare has announced that he will retire from politics at the election.

He’s one of the more prolific tweeters among MPs and that’s how he told the world:

The Dominion calls him a veteran:

. . . The veteran MP announced he will retire at the election.

The 53-year-old former Maori Affairs Minister made the announcement via Twitter this morning, saying: “Well, I’m on my way to caucus to inform my colleagues of the @NZNationalParty that I intend to retire at the upcoming General Election.”

Henare was first elected to Parliament in 1993 elections for New Zealand First in the former Northern Maori electorate.

He is currently chair of the Maori Affairs select committee and a member of the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade committee. . .

He will be the 15th National MP to step down during this term or at the election which has provided a wonderful opportunity for healthy renewal in the caucus.

Contrast that with Labour which so far has had only one retirement announced.

National MPs are showing they know they can succeed outside parliament, most Labour ones are too scared to try.

National will be presenting fresh ideas and fresh faces to voters, Labour will have the same stale faces who squandered the good years of the noughties, and lost the 2005 and 2008 elections, offering the same old tax and spend policies.


Barbara Kuriger Nat candidate for TKC

April 7, 2014

National party members have selected Barbara Kuriger, who was the inaugural Dairy Women of the Year, as its candidate for Taranaki King Country.

 . . . Mrs Kuriger said she was honoured to receive the nomination to contest the seat.

 “It’s a tremendous privilege to be able to contest the seat for National and for Taranaki – King Country communities,” said Mrs Kuriger.

 “John Key and National are delivering real opportunities for regional New Zealand. I will be working hard to ensure our communities keep a strong voice in National at the election.”

 Barbara is a shareholder and Director of 3 family owned farming businesses.

 Focused succession planning has created the opportunity for Barbara to transition from full time farming to follow her passion for the Agribusiness industry into the roles of governance, coaching, and leadership.

 In 2012 she was awarded the Inaugural Dairy Women of the Year which came with a Fonterra scholarship to participate in the Global Women’s Breakthrough Leadership Program, from which she graduated in September 2013.

Barbara is currently on the Board of Directors for DairyNZ, Dairy Training Limited, Primary ITO, New Zealand Young Farmers, Taratahi Agricultural Training Centre, Te Kauta, Venture Taranaki Trust, and the Dairy Women’s Network. She is Chair of the Primary Industries Capability Alliance.

She is highly regarded in the agricultural industry and is seeking more opportunities to collaborate with other industries to promote regional growth. 

Barbara is a sought after speaker for conferences and events both within New Zealand and internationally, and is involved in many community activities. She is also a regular columnist with the NZ Farmers Weekly and does regular opinion pieces on radio.

There’s more on her website.

Rural electorates are supposedly more conservative but members in TKC have, like those in Waitaki (held by Jacqui Dean), Rangitata (Jo Goodhew) and Selwyn (Amy Adams)  in earlier years, selected a woman in a safe blue seat.

Anyone reading her biography will realise that she was chosen on her merits and has the skills and experience to make a positive difference to her electorate, in parliament and for the country.


No lolly scramble from National

April 3, 2014

If you’d been through several tough years in your household or business, were getting your head back above the water and had a little extra money, what would you do?

Pay down debt and put away something for the next crisis, or splash out?

If you were sensible you’d take the first option and that’s what National will do if it’s returned to government this year.

Prime Minister John Key said that in a speech which told us there will be no election year lolly scramble.

. . . Budget forecasts will show that in the coming financial year the Government is going to post a surplus, albeit a small one.

Once that has been achieved, we can start getting our debt down.

The Budget will show that we remain on track to reduce net government debt to below 20 per cent of GDP by 2020.

At the same time – over successive budgets – we have set out on a longer-term path to repair the damage to our economy from the excessive borrowing, consumption and government spending of the mid-2000s.

That path has involved reforms like the tax switch of 2010, that significantly reduced personal income tax rates across the board, and encouraged savings and work.

As I’ve said, the worst times are now behind us and the risks of another global crisis have lessened considerably.

So the Government’s focus has moved from managing our way through a recession, with persistent budget deficits, to managing a growing economy.

Initially, growth in the economy has been driven by low interest rates, high prices for our exports, a catch-up in housing supply and the rebuilding of Christchurch.

But this momentum has now turned into a much broader recovery where consumer and business confidence has lifted, employment is rising and wages on average are increasing faster than the cost of living.

Our focus is on sustaining economic growth over the medium term, so the economy doesn’t just burn brightly for a couple of years and then run out of oxygen.

Because when we talk about the economy – about things like GDP and the balance of payments – we’re ultimately talking about people’s jobs, their wages, and the costs they face in going about their daily lives and raising their families.

Therefore, it’s hugely important to continue the progress we’ve recently been making.

Over the past year, for example, 66,000 more people have got a job.

Average weekly wages have gone up 2.8 per cent, compared to inflation of only 1.6 per cent.

And the economy as a whole has grown 3.1 per cent – one of the faster growth rates in the developed world.

The Budget will show that this employment growth is forecast to continue and the unemployment rate is expected to fall.

Wages are forecast to continue rising faster than inflation.

And economic growth is forecast to continue.

So we are setting out to manage the growing economy with a five- to 10-year view in mind.

Our task is to take the opportunity of a reasonable growth outlook to deepen investment, upgrade skills, intensify and diversify our export base and become more competitive.

Firstly, on the Government’s fiscal strategy:

We have had an on-going commitment to discipline around government spending and that will continue this year, next year and for as long as we lead the Government.

One way to illustrate our approach is this – in the last five years of the previous Labour government, new operating spending each budget averaged $2.7 billion a year.

But in the five budgets of our government, new operating spending has averaged only $250 million a year.

So that’s less than a tenth of the rate of new spending under Labour.

In the last five years of Labour, government spending in total went up 50 per cent.

Bill English often describes that period as a kind of experiment to determine if indiscriminately spending large amounts of money would solve social problems.

Turns out it didn’t.

Spending more doesn’t necessarily get better results.

In contrast, we’ve had a different approach, which is to focus on what is really driving social outcomes like crime, welfare dependency and underachievement at school, and address those underlying causes.

That approach is delivering real results, without breaking the bank. In fact, over the longer term it saves money.

In prisons, for example, we have focused very strongly on literacy and numeracy, skills training, treatment for drug and alcohol addiction, working prisons and reintegration of ex-prisoners into the community.

That is giving offenders the opportunity to turn their lives around and stay away from crime.

Already this approach has reduced reoffending by 12.6 per cent, which is halfway to the target we’ve set ourselves of a 25 per cent drop.

So far, it has meant around 2,300 fewer offenders and 9,300 fewer victims of crime each year.

In welfare, we have focused on getting people off benefits and into work, because that is the best way to lift people and their families out of poverty.

This has involved an upfront investment in case management and support, but it’s expected to have a considerable pay-off as people leave life on a benefit to get established in full-time work.

Addressing these and other issues hasn’t meant big increases in spending.

In fact, we’ve found that the possibility of more spending can be a distraction from a growing focus in the public sector on solving complex problems rather than throwing money at them.

Government spending has actually been declining as a proportion of the economy, at the same time as we have been achieving these results.

In 2008/09, government spending came to 34.5 per cent of GDP. In the coming year it’s forecast to be 30.6 per cent before going under 30 per cent and staying there.

That is hugely important when the economy is on an upswing because – as the Reserve Bank regularly points out – on-going spending restraint from the Government helps to dampen the interest rate cycle.

The Reserve Bank has already begun to raise interest rates from the historically low levels they’ve been at, towards more neutral levels that aren’t going to over-stimulate the economy.

But keeping government spending under control means that, over the course of the cycle, interest rates will be lower than they otherwise would have to be, and for longer.

In turn, that helps to keep the exchange rate lower than it would be, which is important for the overall competitiveness of the economy.

If you want a real live example of the relationship between government spending and interest rates, think about what happened in the mid-2000s, when the Labour government was putting large cash injections into the economy.

Government spending overheated the economy so much that the Reserve Bank was forced to keep putting up rates, higher and higher, to get on top of it.

By 2008, households faced mortgage rates of almost 11 per cent. Business lending rates were also very high.

In the end, the country went into recession in 2008, well before the global financial crisis.

The National-led Government will avoid repeating the glaring mistakes made in the previous economic cycle.

While some increase in interest rates is an inevitable consequence of a healthy and growing economy, we need to do everything we can to help keep rate rises to a minimum.

And we believe we have the support of New Zealanders who can remember the dashed hopes of debt-fuelled growth and floating mortgage rates above 10 per cent.

So there is not going to be a lolly scramble in this year’s Budget. And we also won’t be doing that in the election campaign later this year.

In this year’s Budget we will be sticking to our new spending allowance of $1 billion.

Together with some sensible savings, this allows us to focus new spending mainly on health and education – which are always at the heart of our budgets – and on families and children.

And sticking to the allowance will enable us to post a small budget surplus in 2014/15, which we have long promised.

In future budgets, we will be posting consistent and larger surpluses. Those surpluses will allow us to begin reducing debt as a proportion of GDP.

This is what sensible and responsible fiscal policy is all about.

In difficult times, governments run deficits and built up debt, to support the economy and jobs. In good times, they run surpluses and pay down that debt. . .

Labour did use some of the tax windfall of the noughties to reduce debt but it also increased spending unsustainably.

Policies it’s announced so far show it hasn’t learned from that mistake.

This gives voters a very real choice in the election – fiscal prudence and responsibility from National or higher taxes and higher spending from Labour and its fellow travellers on the left.


Norman helps National again

March 30, 2014

Undecided voters in the centre generally don’t like parties on the extremes of politics.

They don’t wholeheartedly support National or Labour but they prefer them to those at the more radical end of the political spectrum.

They are more likely to favour a stronger major party because of that, knowing that any of the wee parties which are needed to form a government will have a lot less leverage.

That’s one reason labour is struggling.

Some who might support it aren’t at all keen on the thought of the influence a Green Party with a third as many MPs as Labour would have.

Any flexing of muscles by the Greens might appeal to its supporters but it sends those to the right of the left and in the centre further right.

Russel Norman’s announcement he wants to be deputy Prime Minister will excite his party’s grass roots but it will scare a lot of undecided and swinging voters.

Green Party co-leader Russel Norman wants to be deputy prime minister if Labour and Greens become government after this year’s election.

Any cabinet formed after the September election should be proportional, and the deputy prime minister role would certainly be on the table, Dr Norman told The Nation today.

“Obviously it depends on the size of the vote,” he said. . .

Keeping talking like that, Russel, it will hurt Labour and help National.

P.S.

Does this ambition on Norman’s part expose the nonsense of co-leaders. After all, if he and Metiria Turei are truely equal as leaders, why would he be deputy PM ahead of her?


Mana’s anitpathy to National saves it from dotbomb

March 26, 2014

The Mana Party has, somewhat  belatedly, discovered its principles:

. . . Mr Harawira said liasing with Mr Dotcom’s party – to be launched on Thursday – would not be in Mana’s best interests.

“Dotcom would have to commit to getting rid of National and changing the Government before Mana would consider any deal with his Internet Party,” he said.

“That’s a bottom line for Mana. I resigned from the Maori Party because their relationship with National was – and continues to be – destructive to Maori. We won’t be going back there for anyone.” . .

He’s right to stick to his principles, even if they’re based on the wrong premise that National is destructive to Maori.

The Herald opines that a Mana-Internet marriage of convenience would be a cynical step too far:

. . . Two parties with little in common aside from an antipathy to John Key and covert surveillance would be guilty of a new level of cynicism based solely on mutual benefit. For Mana, there would be the prospect of boosted funding and a higher profile during the election campaign; for the Internet Party, a representation in Parliament that it could never achieve on its own. . .

Some within the Mana Party may believe that current polling shows they have nothing to lose. Any perception that they were selling out ideologically would be more than offset by the prospect of more seats in Parliament if the construct with Mr Dotcom’s party increased their combined party vote to anything more than about 2 per cent.

But nothing is more important to a political party than its credibility. Mana would pay a heavy price on two counts. First, potential supporters would see a party willing, in its desperation, to compromise its beliefs. Second, they would be alienated by its readiness to take advantage of a much-maligned aspect of MMP as never before. By any yardstick, this marriage of convenience would be a sorry step too far.

That Harawira and some in the party even contemplated a union with someone with whom they have so little in common doesn’t reflect well on them and their readiness to be swayed by money.

That Kim Dotcom was willing to manipulate our electoral system, in a way not dissimilar to the way he’s using a back door entrance to the stock market, just seems like business as normal for him.

However, that even Mana has cold feet makes it even more likely that the Internet Party will be another  dotbomb.

 


Imagine . . .

March 23, 2014

Imagine there’s a wealthy man who had been convicted of crimes in another country, is awaiting extradition to face charges on other matters.

Imagine that he’s also facing serious allegations about paying staff far less than the minimum wage and owes considerable sums to creditors.

Imagine that to amuse himself, keep himself in the headlines, avenge himself of real or imagined slights and/or possibly get enough political clout to prevent the extradition, he decides to set up a political party.

Imagine that this man is going to get an MP from a small right or centre-right party to defect to his party.

Imagine the uproar from the left and the coverage in the media.

Would it be as mild and if not supportive, at least as unquestioning as this story that says Dotcom claims first MP?

Internet mogul Kim Dotcom claims he has signed up one sitting MP to join his new party before the election and is talking to three more – a poaching raid unprecedented in New Zealand politics. . . .

He refuses to disclose the identity of the MP, saying it will be revealed once the Internet Party is registered and has chosen all its candidates, probably in June.

His revelation came in an exclusive interview with the Herald on Sunday yesterday.

Dotcom said he was also in talks with Mana Party leader Hone Harawira to unite their two parties under one umbrella, enabling the Internet Party to ride into Parliament on the coat-tails of the Te Tai Tokerau electorate MP.

The two leaders and their party bosses, Vikram Kumar and Gerard Hehir, met on February 28 at a house on Auckland’s North Shore.

The Mana Party executive will this week consider a merger proposal. Mana would bring one or two electorates, the Internet Party would bring a more broadly-based party vote and $1 million-plus in campaign funding. . .

The reporter might think that enough has been said about Dotcom’s history but surely, when the Supreme Court has just dismissed his claim to see all the evidence the US has against him, it ought to be part of the story.

. . . “The Mana Party is one of several parties we are talking to, to form an alliance,” Dotcom revealed.

“We are also talking to a number of MPs that have won electorates and are likely to win electorates again. Our goal is to put together a good alliance to make sure this agenda we have gets into Parliament.

“I can tell you right now that we will certainly have one MP with an electorate in the Internet Party.” . . .

It’s difficult to believe a National MP, with the odds favouring a return not just to parliament but probably government, would be mad enough to have anything to do with this man and his party.

Someone in Labour, doing the maths and thinking that s/he’s facing at best another three years in opposition if not losing a seat altogether might be desperate, or stupid, enough to contemplate changing wakas.

But anyone with a passing knowledge of history would know that there are far more MPs who’ve done that and disappeared than the very few who’ve kept their seats.

The accompanying editorial does mention the extradition, gagging order against his former body guard and creditors.

But it too avoids any mention of buying elections or crony capitalism and attempted corruption that would almost certainly be part of a story were the would-be puppet master be attempting to pull the strings of MPs in the centre or right.


Nats select Lewis Holden for Rimutaka

March 20, 2014

The National Party has selected Lewis Holden as its candidate for Rimutaka.

A fifth generation New Zealander, Mr Holden (29) was educated at Hutt International Boys School in Trentham, Upper Hutt, before completing a Bachelor of Commerce and Administration at Victoria University in 2006.

He is a keen debater, participating in the Australasian Intervarsity Debating Championships, and New Zealand Universities Debating Championships in 2006 which his team won in that year.

Mr Holden’s candidacy follows a career in the information technology industry, working for IBM, New Zealand-owned solutions-provider Spectrum, Ingram Micro NZ, and most recently for Oracle New Zealand in Auckland.

He is married to Jennifer and will return to the electorate to contest the seat.

Mr Holden is also known for his work as Chairman of the New Zealand Republican Movement from 2006-2013.

National has selected another capable candidate who has experience in business and life.

He will be contesting the seat against sitting MP Chris Hipkins who gained a majority of 3126 in 2011.

However, National won the party vote which indicates the seat is more purple than red.


Enemy of affordability

March 20, 2014

Greens like to think they’re friends of the earth.

They aren’t so keen on earthlings, and in their eyes some earthlings are even less equal than others as this exchange during question time yesterday shows:

4. Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister of Finance: Will the Government propose any measures to restrict the sale of New Zealand farmland or residential land to foreign companies or persons?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): We are certainly not going to restrict Australians from buying homes after they migrate to New Zealand. The Government has already restricted overseas investment in sensitive land and residential land. We made changes to the regulations in 2010, which were reflected in a directive letter to the Overseas Investment Office. We believe these changes struck the appropriate balance between ministerial flexibility to consider a wider range of issues when assessing overseas investment and, at the same time, providing clarity and certainty for potential investors. I would note that under this Government the amount of sensitive land approved for sale to overseas buyers has been less than half what it was in the last 5 years of the previous Labour-Greens Government. I would also note that the OECD assesses our overseas investment regime as now one of the more restrictive in the developed world.

Dr Russel Norman: Does he consider that China has any lessons to teach New Zealand regarding foreign ownership, given that China protects its economic interests through restricting land sales to foreign buyers?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The member may be more familiar than I am with the tenets of communism, but in China private individuals did not own land until recently, only the Government did, so even the Chinese could not buy land in China. But I am a bit surprised to find that the Greens only ever get this excited about foreign ownership when it involves the Chinese, who happen to have a much lower number of consents than Australia, the UK, Germany, Switzerland, and, I think, Sweden.

Dr Russel Norman: Does he have any concern that more than one in 10 homes in Auckland is purchased offshore and that, according to BNZ economist Tony Alexander, this figure is set to only increase?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: I know that the member has been conducting his own investigation into these issues by visiting the home of Kim Dotcom, a well-known foreign investor in Auckland real estate. I cannot confirm the member’s one in 10 number. The BNZ survey that I saw said that about six houses in every 100 are foreign-purchased and about a quarter of those are being purchased by the Chinese, which means that 1.5 houses in every 100 might be being purchased by people whom real estate agents think are residents of China.

Might is the operative word.

If the property isn’t big enough to require Overseas Investment Office approval, the nationality of the purchaser isn’t recorded.

And the fact that some people doesn’t look either Maori or Pakeha doesn’t mean they aren’t New Zealanders.

Dr Russel Norman: When will he and his Government consider there is a problem—will it be when one in five homes is purchased by offshore buyers, or will it be when one in four homes is purchased by offshore buyers? At what point will he acknowledge that there is a problem?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: We do not have the same problem about buyers being foreign as the Greens do. What we have a problem with is the very high cost of housing in New Zealand for New Zealanders. And all the analysis shows that the fundamental driver of the high cost of housing is not the Greens’ friends from China; it is the Greens’ friends in the planning departments of our city councils who insist on blocking new development of new housing. So the Greens are a much bigger enemy of the affordability of housing in New Zealand than the Chinese have ever been.

Restrictions on the supply of housing is a far bigger enemy of affordability than foreign buyers.

Dr Russel Norman: Does he consider that an increase in interest from offshore buyers in purchasing residential property in Auckland is increasing the price of housing for New Zealand homebuyers, or does he think that this big increase in demand from offshore is having no effect— that it is a special kind of market where a big increase in demand has no effect on prices?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: It is not obvious that there is a big increase in demand from offshore buyers. There is some anecdotal evidence that that is the case, and I know that that is certainly believed by some people, but it is yet to be established. The fundamental driver of the increase in housing is restrictive planning policy, which means that when there is more demand—whether it is foreign or, in this case, New Zealanders who have stopped migrating and are staying home and more people who are arriving in New Zealand as migrants—and those factors of demand are rising, the supply cannot react to it. All around the world restrictive planning laws mean higher prices and more volatile prices, and the Greens back that kind of policy. They should be backing the Government on getting rid of that sort of policy if they are really concerned about locking low and middle income New Zealanders out of the housing market.

Dr Russel Norman: Does he agree with Auckland house auctioneer Adam Wang that our ambiguous laws around capital gains tax are assisting the boom in the foreign buy-up of our

housing stock, and does he have any plans to deal with the fact that the capital gains tax exemption in New Zealand is part of the problem driving up house prices?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: All of those issues have been looked at by various inquiries, by the Productivity Commission, and by policy advisers, and it is possible that any one of them has some influence on the price. This Government, though, has focused on the biggest influence, and the most pervasive one, and that is restriction of supply. It is hard to understand why the Greens support housing planning policies that have the effect of driving up the wealth of the leafy suburbs at the expense of middle-income and low-income New Zealanders. I think that if the Greens were really concerned about equity in New Zealand and affordability of housing, they would be supporting the Government’s policies, not the Labour Party’s policies.

Restrictions on supply help those already on the housing ladder.

Labour and Green policies for higher taxes, will not fix that and their policies which will lead to higher inflation and interest rates would reinforce them as enemies of affordability.


No change good, change bad

March 19, 2014

Share market investors put their money on yesterday’s poll results:

The NZX 50 Index rose to a new record, following a global rally, paced by power companies after recent political polls put the government ahead, helping dispel fears the opposition parties will be able to overhaul the electricity sector. MightyRiverPower, Meridian Energy and Contact Energy rose.

The benchmark index rose 47.638 points, or 0.9 percent, to 5135.664. Within the index, 27 stocks rose, 12 fell and 11 were unchanged. Turnover was $167 million.

Better than expected US industrial production figures kicked off a global rally in equity markets which carried on into Asia. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng was up 0.5 percent in afternoon trading, Japan’s Nikkei 225 index advanced 1.4 percent and Australia’s S&P/ASX was up 0.5 percent.

Power companies paced today’s gains after a New Zealand Herald’s DigiPoll survey put the governing National Party at 50.8 percent support ahead of the September election. Labour, the main opposition party, garnered 29.5 percent. A key election policy of the opposition parties is to regulate the electricity market, creating a single state-owned wholesale electricity buyer. . .

“The electricity sector is up, and I’m going to put it down to the Herald DigiPoll results which were published, because they’re up across the board,” said Greg Easton, investment adviser at Craigs Investment Partners. “If there is no change in government, then that sector could really outperform after the election.” . . .

If no change in government good the obvious implication is that a change of government would be bad – and not just for energy companies and the stock market.


Another poll confirms the trend

March 18, 2014

Support for he Labour Party is below 30% in the latest Herald DigiPoll survey:

Labour’s support has sunk nearly six points and it is polling only 29.5 per cent in the Herald-DigiPoll survey.

The popularity of leader David Cunliffe has fallen by almost the same amount, to 11.1 per cent. That is worse than the 12.4 per cent worst rating of former leader David Shearer.

National could govern alone with 50.8 per cent if the poll were translated to an election result.

The popularity of John Key as Prime Minister has climbed by 4.6 points to 66.5 per cent. That is his best rating since the election but not as high as he reached in his first term when he often rated more than 70 against Phil Goff.

The increases in support for National and the Greens since December put them at their highest ratings since the 2011 election.

The Greens are up 2.3 points to 13.1 per cent and with Labour would muster a combined 42.6 per cent.

New Zealand First is down slightly to 3.6 per cent but leader Winston Peters’ ratings as preferred Prime Minister at 6.5 per cent suggest the party could still top the 5 per cent threshold required to get MPs under MMP without requiring an electorate seat.

Other polls have shown a decline in Labour’s fortunes this year but today’s is the first to have Labour in the 20s since Mr Cunliffe took over the leadership from Mr Shearer in September last year. . .

Polling began on March 6, in the midst of the fallout over his use of trusts for donations.

But it continued through last week when Mr Key condemned minister Judith Collins for her failure to declare a dinner in Beijing with her husband’s business associates. . . .

The last fortnight was dire for Labour and last week wasn’t good for National, but maybe it’s only political tragics who are really interested in these issues.

Mr Key said the poll was a confirmation that a majority of New Zealanders believe the country is heading in the right direction “but clearly there is a lot more work to be done if we are to create the jobs and increase the living standards that New Zealanders want to see”. . . 

Asked if the issue of Mr Cunliffe’s of Ms Collins non-declarations would have affected the poll, he said: “Voters weigh up a great many factors when considering who to support but I continue to believe the strongest motivation is when a political party is focused on the issues that really matter to voters.” . . .

Individual polls bounce around but this one confirms the trend which shows National and its leader are popular, Labour and its leader aren’t.

There’s just six months until the election.

That’s time enough for National to slip a few points and make it difficult to form a coalition.

But it’s not a lot of time for Labour to climb out of the doldrums and convince voters it could offer good governance and stability with the collection of support parties it would need.


Doocey for Waimakariri

March 17, 2014

The National Party has selected Matthew Doocey as its candidate for Waimakariri.

Mr Doocey was selected by a meeting of local party members tonight.

“Matthew proved himself an effective campaigner in the Christchurch East by-election, with a real passion for advancing and rebuilding Canterbury. He will be a strong, fresh, and energetic local MP if elected in September,” said Canterbury-Westland Regional Chair Roger Bridge.

“Kate Wilkinson has served the electorate well, winning the seat for National in 2011. However we are taking nothing for granted this election and will be running a strong campaign in Waimakariri.”

Mr Doocey said he was honoured to be selected and looking forward to the challenge ahead.

“It’s an honour to be selected as National’s Waimakariri candidate,” says Mr Doocey.

“North Canterbury has been well-served by a Government which is making the rebuild a priority, investing in infrastructure, and backing rural communities.

“Having a strong local voice inside National has been crucial for Waimakariri. I will be working hard to carry that on if I have the privilege of being elected to serve these communities inside Parliament.”

Matthew Doocey – Biographical Notes

A born and bred Cantabrian, Matthew Doocey (41) lives in Redwood with Hungarian-born wife Viktoria and their new-born daughter Emily.

After pursuing opportunities in the UK, Mr Doocey decided to return home last year to give something back after the earthquakes.

He currently works at the Canterbury District Health Board as a manager in its surgical division.

Mr Doocey went to St Bedes College before studying counselling psychology at WelTec (Wellington). He has a Bsc (Hons) in Social Policy, an MA in Healthcare Management from Kingston University in London, and an MSc in Global Politics from Birkbeck College – University in London. He is also studying towards a Doctorate in Health by distance with Bath University in the UK.

Matthew Doocey has a long career in healthcare management including in the delivery of community health, mental health, and social care services both in voluntary and Government settings.

Kate Wilkinson won Waimakariri from Labour’s Clayton Cosgrove.

If proposed boundary changes are confirmed, the electorate will be a bit bluer than it was.


Bluegreen for good growth

March 16, 2014

The left like to think they have a mortgage on green issues.

They don’t, and most of their policies to protect and enhance the environment come at considerable cost to the economy.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

It is possible to have sound environmental policies which don’t handicap the economy, and  to have sound economic policies which don’t come at the cost of the environment.

Photo: Now here's a real plan for our economy.

Good economic policies enable better environmental ones – cleaning up past mistakes and maintaining high standards comes at a cost.

By worlds standards New Zealand’s water quality is high, but there is still a lot of room for improvement in many places.

In light of that, the announcement of  an extra $1.2 million to help communities clean-up waterways is very welcome.

The Government is investing a further $2.1 million to help communities improve New Zealand’s freshwater quality, Environment Minister Amy Adams has announced.

Ms Adams made the announcement at the Bluegreens Forum in Kaikoura today.

“This further investment adds to the Government’s strong commitment to improving the quality of our freshwater, as we develop a package of cohesive reform and clean-ups that will lead to the more productive and sustainable use of our freshwater resource within a generation,” Ms Adams says.

The Government’s freshwater reform programme includes a National Objectives Framework, national bottom lines for freshwater, collaborative planning processes, better water accounting, and spending hundreds of millions of dollars to clean-up historical contamination of our iconic waterways.

“I know that many New Zealanders want to play an active part in improving the quality of the water in our local lakes and rivers.

“To encourage this, today I am announcing the Government is allocating $1.1 million to a fund to support local water quality initiatives that support the freshwater reforms.

“These projects will involve the community, raise awareness and strengthen collaboration.”

Further information, including how to apply for the funding, will be announced shortly.

“As well as helping people take action to improve freshwater quality, we also need to make sure the activity is achieving results.

“So, a further $1 million will be targeted at enhancing the monitoring of freshwater quality in New Zealand.

“A large network of sites is currently used for assessing the state of our rivers. These sites were established for a variety of reasons, but the data collected is not necessarily representative of the whole country.

“This money will be used to improve the effectiveness of the monitoring, enabling more representative and precise reporting on the state of New Zealand’s freshwater.

“This will also support the National-led Government’s environmental reporting framework which will enhance New Zealanders’ understanding about the state of our environment.

“New Zealand is in the middle of ambitious freshwater management reforms and this money will support regional councils to involve their communities in taking action.

“At the same time we are ensuring that good information is available to shape the decisions that communities need to make about water quality in their region.”

Photo: Investing a further $2.1 million in community freshwater action


Only growth under Labour – tax rates

March 15, 2014

Labour leader David Cunliffe gave a speech yesterday.

It had no new ideas,  but repeated the old one of higher tax rates.

That’s a policy based on political ideology not economics.

It’s motivation is to punish the rich not help the poor.

Higher tax rates don’t necessarily equate to higher tax takes and usually do the opposite.
Photo: Businesses create jobs. Taxes don't. http://nzyn.at/1cXp2d7

The only way businesses can afford to pay more tax is by diverting money from more productive areas.

More money taken from businesses in tax is less money they have for investments which will help them grow, enable them to employ more people and/or pay higher wages.


Unhappy campers

March 14, 2014

Richard Prebble is back.

He’s running Act’s campaign and he’s also put out a newsletter in which he writes about some unhappy campers:

Unhappy campers

Only Labour insiders knew David Cunliffe had two secret trusts. The leak came from within Labour. Who are the secret donors? Mr. Dotcom and Owen Glenn would have outed themselves. It has to be donors whose names would shock. Was David Cunliffe’s primary funded by American businessmen he met when he was a “capitalist” at Boston Consulting? It is illegal for a foreigner to give over $1,500 to a political party though not to an MP. The speculation will not stop until Mr. Cunliffe fesses up. Offering to pay it back is as useless as a bank robber saying he is giving the money back.

There is more to come

The Letter has learnt that another candidate for the Labour leadership also received a significant donation from a businessman. We do hope the MP remembers to declare it or would he like us to do it for him?

If some in the Labour camp are unhappy now, they might be about to be even unhappier with the new chief of staff:

He is a wrecker

Matt McCarten’s appointment as Labour’s chief of staff is very significant. He is a hater. Matt has fallen out with everyone he has ever worked for. If McCartten decides David Cunliffe is the stooge of the nameless businessmen who funded his primary campaign Matt will lead the coup. On second thoughts, Matt does not need a reason to plot a coup. It is what he does.

Parliamentary Services Concerned

Parliamentary Services has issued strict instructions that parliamentary staff are employed by the taxpayer to assist MPs and must not engage in party political campaigning. All commentators agree McCarten has been hired for his campaigning skills. No doubt the Commission will be sending a please explain letter.

Why employ him as a chief of staff if he’s wanted for his campaign skills?

Is it because Labour’s short of money?

If the chief of staff is running the campaign who’s running the leader’s office and what’s whoever is supposed to be the campaign manager doing?

Why appoint McCarten?

Labour believes that if only the “missing one million” who did not vote last election had gone to the ballot box they would have won. McCarten has been employed to get out the non-vote in South Auckland.

Will it work?

Maybe voters stayed at home because they like John Key. McCarten ran the Mana Party campaign last election and they failed spectacularly. Matt thinks everyone in South Auckland is a homeless out of work Maori or Pacifica. Actually South Auckland is diverse; most people have jobs and their own home. Most Labour voters think McCarten is an extremist. For every vote McCarten gets Labour will lose two voters.

Lonely Hone

Under McCarten’s campaign direction Hone Harawera has found he is leading a “class war” party. Hone is so irrelevant in parliament he rarely bothers to attend. Now Matt is directing the campaign to defeat the Mana Party. Hone must wonder why he left the Maori Party. . .

This is a conundrum born of MMP.

Labour needs to maximise its vote.

To do so it needs to mop up voters from its left and right flank.

Some could well be people who for a myriad of reasons didn’t vote three years ago. But some will also have voted for other parties on the left.

If Labour mops them up, it butchers its potential coalition partners. In doing this it will make some very unhappy campers among its supposed friends.

Worse for its election chances, it does nothing to grow the total left vote and scares moderate voters in the centre away from it towards National or its potential coalition partners.

 

 


Explosion or erosion

March 13, 2014

Yesterday morning Chris Trotter called the election for National unless something hugely dramatic happens between now and polling day.

In the afternoon Justice Minister Judith Collins had to apologise for not being as open as she should have been about her trip to China.

This morning, the Reserve Bank  is expected to announce an increase in the Official Cash Rate which will lead to an increase in interest rates.

That won’t come as any surprise when the OCR has been at a record low of 2.5% since March 2011.

It will be welcomed by those who get income from interest-bearing investments. It won’t be appreciated by the many more who have mortgages, even though interest rates will still be well below the 11% we were paying when Labour lost the 2008 election.

Neither of these are hugely dramatic and are unlikely by themselves to have much impact on the polls when Labour continues to be divided internally and confused about which coalition partners it would choose.

The odds still favour National, but when even a day can make a big difference, six months is time for an even bigger one.

Erosion over time can do as much damage as an explosion.


Not all over yet

March 12, 2014

Chris Trotter thinks the election is all over bar the counting:

UNLESS SOMETHING HUGELY DRAMATIC HAPPENS between now and polling day, 20 September, the General Election of 2014 is all but over. The National-led government of Prime Minister, John Key, looks set to be returned for a third term by a margin that may surprise many of those currently insisting that the result will be very close. What may also surprise is the sheer scale and comprehensiveness of the Left’s (especially Labour’s) electoral humiliation.

By which dark paths must one travel to reach these gloomy (for the Left!) conclusions? Simply stated, one has only to follow the basic precepts of psephology (the study of elections and electors).

No matter whether you approach the forthcoming election from the perspective of the socio-economic context of the contest; contrasting styles of political leadership; the policies of the major players; the parties’ organisational heft and their respective financial resources; or the many factors influencing turnout; the advantage lies decisively with the National Party. . .

The advantage does lie with National.

It can campaign on its achievements, Prime Minister John Key is the most popular leader in recent political history, National’s caucus is united, several retirements mean the new one will be refreshed, and it will be presenting some big new ideas with small price tags.

The unity isn’t only in caucus, the membership is also united and supportive of the parliamentary wing of the party.

Photo: Election date: September 20. Like and share if you back John Key and National for #3moreyears http://nzyn.at/3moreyears

Labour by contrast has achieved little in opposition, has a leader who is less popular than the unpopular one he replaced and who doesn’t have the confidence of his caucus which is divided. With only one retirement announced it looks old and stale, and policies presented so far have been botched in their presentation and come with big price tags.

If we were voting under First Past the Post, National could be looking forward to a landslide.

But under MMP, it’s not enough for the major party to do well, it will almost certainly need coalition partners and none of those who might fit in a National-led government are particularly strong.

It hasn’t happened yet in New Zealand, but the smaller of the big parties could cobble together enough votes to trump the bigger one and lead a government, albeit a potentially very unstable one.

The six months to the election isn’t long for a divided and dismal Labour to climb higher, but it’s plenty of time for even a very popular government to falter.

If a week is a long time in politics, six months is far longer.

National has the record, the talent and the policies to win a third term and Labour does not.

But there is no complacency about the election outcome.

Good things might come in threes, but there’s absolutely no guarantee enough voters will support  a third term.

The omens are good for another National-led government, but there’s no certainty.


Labour on sinking sand

March 12, 2014

Labour MPs trying to criticise National for price rises have very short memories:

Hon David Cunliffe: How does the Prime Minister expect everyday New Zealanders to keep up with the cost of living when many of them will be paying 7 or 8 percent more for their power and some face increases of up to 24 percent in this year alone?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: One of the hallmarks of this National-led Government that is in contrast to the previous Labour Government is that, in fact, wages have been going up faster than the price of inflation. It is worth remembering that in terms of electricity prices, they make up less than 4 percent of the CPI. So in overall terms, when one looks at the CPI, some things go up and some things go down. For example, car prices went down, clothing and footwear prices went down, and household contents went down. So in many categories lots of things went down; the odd things went up. Overall, most consumers have not actually faced power increases of that level.

When wages increase faster than inflation, as they have recently under National, people have more purchasing power.

When, as happened under Labour, inflation beats wages, people have less purchasing power and end up worse off,

Hon David Cunliffe: If that is all so rosy, why did the Prime Minister try to blame Transpower when Transpower’s charges make up less than 10 percent of electricity prices and Transpower stated that its increases are likely to be less than $1 a month on average; and is the truth of it not that the power price increases are going to the privatised companies and enriching the foreign buyers that he is in league with?

Hon Bill English: What a load of nonsense.

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: To quote the Deputy Prime Minister, what a load of nonsense. If you look at what has been driving up power prices insomuch as there have been rises at all for consumers, it has been a combination of Transpower increases and lines companies, if one looks at those two together. Interestingly enough, though, if we look at, say, for instance, the last 5 years of power price increases—

Dr David Clark: Out of touch—5 long years.

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Well, 5 long years with half the power increases, because they have been 19.7 percent as opposed to 39.1 percent for the 5 years under Labour.

Increases of 19.7% might seem high but they’re about half the 39.1% increases that happened during Labour’s last term.

There’s no hope that they will be lower should Labour return to government when they’re ETS policy will add hundreds of dollars to power bills.

Louise Upston: Do official measures of the cost of living include electricity prices, and what does this tell us?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes, a very good question. The electricity prices in the CPI differ slightly from those that the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, but they tell the same story. Over the last 5 years, going back to December 2008, electricity prices in the CPI rose 19.7 percent, and in the 5 years before that they rose 39.1 percent. So it is no wonder people think that power prices are high—in 5 years under Labour, electricity prices went up by 40 percent. That is why you cannot trust Labour when it comes to power prices. . .

The only thing you can trust Labour with is that their policies will be costly for us all.

Hon David Cunliffe: When will the Prime Minister listen to New Zealanders who are facing median house prices that are up by 8.6 percent on last year, when first-home buyers are now being shut out of the market, which he has made safe for speculators?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: One of the things that the Government has been doing is working hard to ensure, actually, that first-home buyers can get into the market. There are a few ways of doing that. Firstly, the release of land will have a substantial impact. But let us just ask any first-home buyer we like what they would prefer to pay for their floating mortgage rate. Would they prefer to pay around 5 percent at the moment under a National-led Government, or 11 percent under Labour, which is what it was when we came into office?

Hon David Cunliffe: Speaking of interest rate rises, given that wholesale rates appear to be on their way from 5.75 percent to 8 percent, can he confirm that a household currently paying $500 a week in mortgage costs will face another $136 a week by the time that mortgage hits 8 percent?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: For a start off, it is likely—I think the interest rates will make a gradual return towards a slightly more normalised level, but it is worth understanding that we have interest rates that are on a 50-year low. Secondly, if we want to talk about individual consumers, I am surprised that the Leader of the Opposition is worried about them at the moment, because he showed absolutely no worry about them when interest rates were at 11 percent. When the Government was putting so much pressure on spending, it was forcing up inflation and forcing the Reserve Bank to raise rates. In fact, let us just take that household that has a $200,000 mortgage. That household, in comparison, is paying $200 a week less today than when Labour left office. You see, when we go to the polls on 20 September and the voters ask themselves who they can trust with the economy, it certainly will not be Labour that will be the answer coming from their TV sets.

We can’t trust Labour to run themselves, they’re certainly not ready to be trusted with running the country.

Hon David Cunliffe: When the Prime Minister said in 2008 that New Zealanders should “not be fearful of their next bill”, why are so many people now fearful of their housing, power, and other bills, under this uncaring National Government?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: For a start off, the member is wrong. I did not make that statement, and he will never actually be able to demonstrate that I did. I was asked about the definition of poverty, and I said that the definition, at least of being well off, is that you are not fearful of a bill. But if it comes to bills, then I say this to New Zealanders. What would they rather have: a 19.7 percent increase in power prices under National, or a 40 percent increase under Labour over 5 years, and 72 percent? Would they rather have interest rates at about 5 and a bit percent, or would they rather have them at 11 percent? Would they rather have an economy under a National-led Government that is growing in excess of 3.5 to 4 percent, with 1,500 people a week coming off welfare and going to work?

Would they rather have an economy that most people around the world have envied? And would they rather have an economy that is actually going to be back into surplus?

Labour are standing on the sinking sand of their poor record in government compounded by expensive and impractical policies should they be returned.

That contrasts with National which can stand firm on its record for restrained spending, lower taxes and economic growth in spite of the financial and natural disasters it’s had to face.


If party didn’t want her, why would electorate?

March 10, 2014

Lesley Soper, the woman Labour didn’t really want to run for Invercargill, has been selected as its candidate.

The Labour Party reopened nominations for the Invercargill electorate in January, citing the retirement of National MP Eric Roy.

A selection meeting held yesterday saw her go up against Michael Gibson.

About 200 members of the Labour Party and unions affiliated to it attended the meeting and a floor and panel vote both opted for Ms Soper. . .

Mr Gibson, who had previously said he wanted to rejuvenate Labour in Invercargill and overhaul the party, could not be reached for comment last night.

Labour was happy for Soper to do the donkey work in a contest they knew she couldn’t win against Eric Roy.

When he stood down they thought the electorate might be more winnable so re-opened the selection.

They struggled to get anyone to put a hand up and, locals tell me, got someone at the 11th hour.

Several weeks later they’ve finally held a selection and chosen the woman they showed they weren’t confident was the best one to run against a new National candidate.

This begs several questions:

* If she wasn’t the preferred candidate in January, why is she in March?

* Was she chosen because she was the best of the two nominated, or because she’s a woman and the other wasn’t?

* If the Labour wasn’t really confident about Soper representing the party, how can the people of Invercargill be enthusiastic about her representing their electorate?

* Why didn’t the party prepare the unsuccessful candidate for a comment?

* If a party can’t run a selection smoothly how can it run the country?

Labour has handicapped its candidate from the start.

Meanwhile Sarah Dowie, National’s candidate, selected by the members in the electorate with no influence from head office, unions or anyone else, has the support of her party and is working hard to win the support of the electorate.


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